The Charlestown Elevated was a segment of the MBTA Orange Line rapid transit line that ran from the Canal Street Incline in downtown Boston, Massachusetts through Charlestown to a terminal in Everett, Massachusetts.
It opened in June 1901 and was replaced by the Haymarket North Extension in April 1975. Photos: City of Boston Archives/Flickr
Construction of the elevated began in 1899 and it opened for revenue service on June 10, 1901. Stations were located at North Union Station (soon renamed as North Station), City Square, and Sullivan Square, where a major maintenance facility was located.
The Atlantic Avenue Elevated opened on August 22, 1901, connecting to the Charlestown Elevated east of North Station. Thompson Square opened as an infill station between City Square and Sullivan Square on May 22, 1902.
When the Causeway Street Elevated was built in 1912, a platform was built at North Station for Atlantic Avenue Elevated shuttle trains so they would not block the main tracks.
In 1917, the elevated was slated to be replaced with a more permanent subway line along the same Main Street routing, but this project was canceled by the US’s entry into World War I.
The Charlestown Elevated was located very near Boston Harbor and the Mystic River tidal estuary and was thus continually exposed to accelerated corrosion caused by salt air. The elevated was also unpopular with many local residents, as it was noisy and blocked out sunlight to Main Street. In the 1960s, it was determined that a replacement elevated would not be wise to build and that a full-length replacement tunnel would be too expensive.
Instead, the Haymarket North Extension project consisted of a tunnel segment from Haymarket through a new underground stop at North Station, then under the Charles River to a portal near Community College. From there the extension was built along the Haverhill Line commuter rail right of way, lowering land acquisition difficulties. The Charlestown Elevated was closed at the end of afternoon rush hour service on April 4, 1975, and the Haymarket North Extension opened on April 7. The Charlestown Elevated’s infrastructure was demolished shortly after its closure.
By the end of 1975, only North Station and Sullivan Square stations were standing in their original locations; they were demolished in 1976. Thompson Square station was lowered to the ground for restaurant use, but burned in 1976 before conversion could take place.
The footings of the Mystic River bridge, just west of the Route 99 (Alford Street) road bridge, were not removed and remain extant as of 2015. The elevated supports can also be seen in the center span of the Charlestown Bridge. Tower C, which was located at the split between the Charlestown Elevated and the Atlantic Avenue Elevated at the southern end of the Charlestown Bridge, was moved to the Seashore Trolley Museum.